Open Source Is Becoming a ‘Best Practice’

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis

Open source programs are becoming a best practice in the technology, telecom/media, and financial services industries. Companies are establishing open source best practices to streamline and organize the way their employees use open source, focusing on long-term business plans. Since open source, a collaborative development process, varies so greatly from traditional software practices (i.e., proprietary and closed), companies are creating their own open source programs and policies to manage how it is used and how it can work best for the company’s long-term goals. Naturally, large technology companies are leading the way in establishing open source best practices, but open source is becoming commonplace for both tech and non-tech companies.

Open source programs are typically created by a company’s software engineering or development department for informal use and then eventually grow to a “formal” program with a collection of policies and guidelines. These policies may include open source contributions, a list of acceptable licenses, and the use of OS code.

The 2018 Open Source Program Management Survey, released by The Linux Foundation, found that 53% of companies surveyed have an open source program already in place, or have plans to create one within the next year. For this survey, “748 people provided information, nearly half of them developers. Company size was broadly represented, with 21 percent of respondents working at large companies with more than 10,000 employees, and 42 percent from small and mid-size companies with 250 or fewer employees.”

The survey found that open source programs generally have three “core characteristics” – to communicate the company’s open source software strategy, to maintain license compliance, and to “foster open source culture.” The survey also found that awareness of open source usage, increased developer speed, and better license compliance are the three top benefits of an open source program.

Other key findings from the survey are summarized below:

  • Cloud native technology companies represent the first wave of companies that have used open source software in such a strategic manner. The engineers in these organizations often play active roles in open source software development.
  • Large companies are about twice as likely to run an open source program than smaller companies (63% vs. 37%)
  • Open source programs are very critical or extremely critical to the success of engineering and product teams, according to 59% of respondents with an open source program.
  • The benefits of an open source program are widely known, with 70% of those without a program believing it would have a positive impact on their company, despite any barriers to creating it.
  • Based on the 49 respondents that self-identified as working at a company on the Forbes Global 2000 list, [we] expect that the number of large companies with open source programs will triple by 2020.
  • Over 60% of respondents with a program believe their open source program is highly business critical and had a significant impact on their ability to do work.

John Mark Walker, founder of the Open Source Entrepreneur Network (OSEN), says, “If a company wants to increase its influence, clarify its open source messaging, maximize the clout of its projects, or increase the efficiency of its product development, a multifaceted approach to open source programs is essential.”

Creating an open source program and promoting open source best practices in a company can improve legal compliance, standardize coding and organizational processes, and establish company-configured open source strategies to give clear direction to executives, developers, and other staff.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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